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How Long Can I Wait to Go to a Doctor After an Accident?

Sep 16, 2020

How Long Can I Wait to Go to a Doctor After an AccidentAfter a car accident, you may feel overwhelmed by all the tasks you have to take care of; talking to the police, working with car insurance, and figuring out a rental car can all be stressful. It can sometimes be easy to ignore your own health and car accident injuries in all the chaos, but insurance companies will expect you to seek care in a reasonable amount of time for any claims to be filed.

If you wait a long time to visit an orthopedic doctor, it may prevent you from receiving proper compensation. Worse, it may make your healing more difficult or longer depending on the injury you suffered. So what is the “reasonable” window for you to visit the doctor?

Rule of Thumb: 72 Hours

First responders will likely show up in the aftermath of your crash and evaluate you for any obvious, severe injuries that require treatment. If you are cleared during this check and sent home, you may think you have avoided any injuries, but even if you don’t feel you have any problems, it is important to get checked out in a timely manner by an orthopedic doctor.

Generally speaking, 72 hours is regarded as the “reasonable” amount of time it should take you to first visit the doctor. After 72 hours, insurance companies may be able to deny your claim and prevent proper compensation. If you do have a serious injury, those three days can also be enough time for the scenario to worsen or cause other, related health complications.

In some cases, it can be difficult to get an appointment with your primary care provider on short notice. You can seek alternatives that allow you to be seen immediately. It may even be a good idea to visit an orthopedic doctor who specializes in car accident injuries and will know what to look for, and how to work with your insurance company. Even if this creates higher out-of-pocket costs immediately, the benefit to your claim will be worth it.

What If Symptoms Are Delayed?

Certain injuries that are common in car accident victims may not become apparent for hours, or even days after the accident has occurred. You may not even know you have sustained an injury within the 72-hour period recommended by insurance agencies. However, this guidance doesn’t mean you necessarily know about the injury, but you should visit an orthopedic doctor regardless. You can always return if you identify a problem later, but having a documented visit in that time period will be important.

While it might seem like you would know about injuries immediately, it is actually quite common to not become aware for days. This is particularly true in whiplash injuries and concussions, the most common injuries resulting from car accidents. The shock of the impact and all the activity that follows can cause your body to release endorphins, particularly adrenaline that activate your fight or flight response. As a result, your body is able to ignore fatigue, pain, and any other issues to keep going. While this offers some protection in dangerous situations, it can also be harmful to not know about your injuries.

Concussions, or mild traumatic brain injuries, will usually occur when the head hits a hard surface as a result of the impact. You may begin to notice dizziness and nausea, problems with concentration and memory, or fatigue in the days that follow a concussion. While most cases are mild and heal over time, concussions can lead to more severe head injuries when exacerbated and not treated properly. Similarly, when the soft tissue around the neck is damaged by whiplash, continuing to move as normal without proper treatment can lead to more tissue damage in just a few days.

Seeking Ongoing Care

While your first visit to the orthopedic doctor should be within 72 hours, that does not mean it’s the only time you will need to seek care. Even mild injuries may require follow up, and it can be important to track progress over time via medical records and documentation. This diligence will also allow you to catch any delayed symptoms that appear long after an accident occurred.

At AICA Orthopedics, we have a team that specializes in car accident injuries. This means that we are experts at diagnosing, treating, and documenting these injuries in accordance with the requirements of your legal claims. We also focus on safe and effective methods for recovery, offering personalized plans to each of our clients that address their needs. If you have been in a car accident, do not hesitate to call us and schedule your initial appointment today!


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